New Calif political writer

Phil Willon, who runs the L.A. Times bureau in the Inland Empire, is becoming the paper's newest statewide political writer. He'll continue to be based in Riverside. Higher education reporter Rick Paddock also is moving onto campaign coverage. Other moves, including a new education reporter and a new police reporter, in the following memo from California Editor David Lauter.

To: The Staff
From: David Lauter, California Editor

I'm happy to announce several new assignments.

Phil Willon has run our Inland Empire edition for the past several years, gamely producing excellent coverage from a small, but spirited staff. He's well earned a chance to get back to reporting, and he'll do so as a state political writer. Phil will continue to be based in the Riverside office, which will position him well to cover the swing areas of the state, the bulk of which are located inland.

With our presidential primary now 12 weeks away, Phil will concentrate initially on stepping up our coverage of the California end of the campaign. In that effort, he'll be joined temporarily by Rick Paddock, who will primarily cover the northern California aspect of the campaign. Both of them will report to Cathy Decker. I'm delighted to add that on top of her editing responsibilities, Cathy will also produce stories under her own name, returning a byline to our pages that's been too-long absent.

Speaking of the presidential campaign, Seema Mehta is on temporary loan to National to assist with the campaign coverage. When she returns in February, she will start a new beat as a regional education writer, focusing on the changing face of schools in southern California's vast suburban regions. She'll report to Beth Shuster.

Kay Saillant has been a mainstay of our Ventura County coverage. She'll now move to a new assignment as roving state correspondent, reporting to state editor Nita Lelyveld. Kay will continue to be based in Ventura, but will bring her practiced eye and experience to a broader range of stories.

The Los Angeles Police Department has always been one of our busiest and most important beats. Covering the department requires a focus both on its crime fighting record and on the major role the department plays in the city's political and policy disputes. That's a crowded agenda, and covering it requires considerable resources -- and resourcefulness. Our current team of Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein has compiled an excellent record of stories. Now, we'll be adding Joel Rubin to the mix. Joel arrived here as a summer intern in 2003, and has done excellent work in a variety of assignments, including the Gray Davis recall, coverage of education in Orange County, a stint last year assisting Foreign in Indonesia, and, currently, the Los Angeles school district. He has a few stories to finish up on the schools beat, but will soon move to his new assignment, where he'll report to Matt Lait and Gale Holland.

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